The Pitfalls of a Poorly Planned Book Launch (and 6 Tips to Avoid Them)

It doesn't have to be this way.
So in a jolt of inspiration like never before, you decide you want to express your thoughts or expertise with the world – not just by blogging, but by producing a small book. (High five. Doing well so far.)

Over three to six months, you outline the content, start laying it out in your word processor, then dive into the writing, fueled by the excitement and motivation that you’re really going through with this.

Or, on the other hand, if writing isn’t your strong suit, you slog through it, hating the process (you may even hire a ghostwriter to pass off that task), but still motivated by the idea that the world will greatly benefit from your work.

You kid glove the content, proofread and edit it multiple times, making sure to bring in an outside editor or proofreader to catch the mistakes you don’t. (Still doing well.)

Then you design your own cover, and even pick a launch date. But you don’t stop there – you plan out a whole book tour. (Woo-hoo!)

Then reality sets in. Your launch date’s coming up really soon and you still have yet to print the thing. What’s worse, you don’t have the money to cover the printing costs.

This doesn’t look too promising, does it?

Well, here are six tips to avoid being that guy.

That horrid scenario is real.

I’m that guy right now. I’ve just completed a 52-week devotional poetry book called From a Babe, set to release in paperback and digitally on July 13, 2012 (which is right around the corner). And yes, a small east coast book tour is scheduled.

Now, remember that this blog is my walking the talk about entertainment business and entrepreneurship so your journey doesn’t have to be as awkward – hence today’s post.

So here’s what you need to know.

P6: Proper planning prevents p*** poor performance.

The Navy hammers that curt little maxim, and it’s the echoing theme of these six tips.

1. Schedule your book release with enough breathing room to raise funds to cover printing and platform design costs.   My book launches in little over a week from now, and I started crowdfunding it last Thursday. (If want a copy or just want to help out, please contribute here.)

2. Schedule your release with enough time to build buzz online.  While virtual tours are a must for authors once a book is released, it’s also very important to start doing a virtual tour of sorts beforehand.

Start doing guest posts on blogs related to your book’s topic, and include the book info in your mini bio at the bottom. That way, people can follow your link to find out more, and you’ll successfully whet their appetite to get it.

3. Know exactly what kind of platform you want the moment you start writing your book, and keep building on it as you progress through your book to build buzz for the launch.  Your platform is your marketing vehicle, and building it from the start helps you attract curious readers who will follow you through your writing journey, feeling as if they’re part of it, so when the book is released, they’ll celebrate your launch with you, and some will even spread the word for you.

I did this by reading poems from the book at my church over the past six months, so most of the congregation is anticipating the book’s release, and some have helped spread the word. However, the online presence is equally as important, if not more so.

What’s a platform, you ask?  It’s your entire web presence package as it relates to your book: a book or author website/blog (which I constructed in WordPress), a Facebook page so people can socially engage with you, a book- or author-specific Twitter account separate from your usual one (if applicable – not always necessary), and any other social media accounts you think would help build interest in your book.

4. Do your homework and nail down exactly how you want your book printed and distributed.  There’s an obscene amount of self-publishing and print-on-demand (POD) companies out there with varying levels of printing and distribution services, so make sure you nail down your pick before you’re anywhere near your launch date.

In fact, don’t even schedule a launch date until after you’ve at least gotten a proof copy in hand. At least by then, you’ve already committed to a printing company, and if it also offers distribution, you’ll already be secure with that as well.

5. Learn the industry standard dimensions for book covers, interior pages, and file formats.  This tip isn’t necessary until after you’ve completed and edited the manuscript, but if you’re self-publishing, it’s a very important step, not only for submitting your manuscript to the printer, but also electronically for the Kindle, Smashwords, iBooks, and Google Reader.

Each electronic distributor has its own file and dimension specifications, so know what you need to do for each.

6. Start telling people who you know will be interested as soon as you establish a launch date.  This tip is meant for your in-person contacts, people you see daily or at least regularly who you know will support you no matter what.

I include this because as soon as you tell a loyal friend you’re working on a book and what it’s about, the next question is usually, “Oh really? When can I get a copy?” So it helps to have that launch date ready for her so she can then say, “Great. Can’t wait.” (That’s overly simplistic, but you get the idea.)

The point is, don’t be incognito about the book – especially if it’s your very first one (as is my case). Tell as many people about it as you think will be interested so that you cover your bases both in person and online.

Speaking of online…

There are more tips where this came from if you’re hungry for more info to help your writing process along, or if you’re still contemplating whether to start writing your first book. Check out these great sites:

Let’s Get Digital – David Gaughran (an ebook and blog that’s all about digital publishing – Gaughran’s platform)

WinePress of Words – blog for WinePress Publishing (tips about self-publishing and ebooks)

LitReactor – online publishing magazine (also offers courses, workshops, and a community section)

The Digital Writer – Sean Platt’s writing blog (if you subscribe, you’ll get access to his entire Sterling Press Library – he offers a free copy of one of his Kindle ebooks every Tuesday)

GalleyCat – MediaBistro’s publishing blog

Wow, you made it to the bottom!

Thanks for reading all the way through. Here are 3 things I’d like you to do:

1. Please make a donation to support my upcoming book, From a Babe, here. (Even if you’re not interested in receiving a copy, your donation is still greatly appreciated – you can give the book as a gift to someone you know will enjoy it). There are great donor gift packages available, but today’s your last chance to get them, so don’t wait.

2. Spread the word about it – ask people you know would be interested to donate as well.

3. Learn from me. Bookmark this article and study it so it doesn’t happen to you. :)

Flickr Photo by anna gutermuth.

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